Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
The woman in today’s WHAT SHE SAID, there’s nothing worse that being single and fat in your 30s. She talks about how the problem of finding clothes her size made her start making clothes for plus-sized women and why she’s currently doing everything she can to lose weight.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I’m a fashion designer and tailor. I’m 36 years old, I’m overweight and I’m single. When I meet people for the first time, I like to tell them that I’m fitfam because people look at me and just automatically assume I put everything I see into my mouth.
I currently weigh about 119kg — which is a good month. At my largest early this year, I weighed about 132kg.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I’ve been trying to lose weight for years. People see me and think I’ve always been this big. Wrong. When I was in secondary school, I wasn’t this big. Yes, I was taller and slightly bigger than my classmates so people used to call me buffon, orobo, gorilla and things like that. But I wasn’t even fat like that, like that. I was just big boned and tall.
I began to gain weight just around the time my parents died in an accident. Something happened when we travelled home for the burial. One of my older cousins raped me. Along with the grief and trauma of losing my parents and then losing my virginity by being raped, I began to eat a lot.
I’m so sorry you experienced that.
When I started university, all the clothes I had from secondary school couldn’t size me and somehow, my weight just kept increasing. I’m obsessed with numbers so I check my weight very often. Then I let myself go. That’s what my step-mother says, that I let myself go and let my fat take over.
If my clothes couldn’t size me, I didn’t care, I just bought new ones. I got stared at a lot, I got called unhealthy when I went to the hospital, even if it was for something as basic as treating a UTI or doing a test. I have had strange men and women tell me how to lose weight — what products to drink, what waist trainer to buy, etc.
I once tried therapy. What happened was, someone spat on me in public and told me I didn’t deserve to eat. That night, I really wanted to kill myself. I was going to, but a friend stopped it and linked me up with a therapist.
I’m so sorry. How often did you go to see the therapist?
Maybe two times or three times. I really couldn’t afford it, so I stopped.
Was therapy able to help?
I won’t say that it completely helped. I would say though that I had some kind of awakening about the same time and decided to try to embrace my body. I weighed about 110kg then. It was really difficult to embrace my body when it was definitely not acceptable by any standard. So that didn’t workout. In fact, I began to hate my body more.
The real awakening came from the problem of getting clothes my size. It’s difficult to find clothes your size when you’re plus-sized. These days, there are brands that cater specifically to plus-sized women, but back then, not so much. Women outfits often stopped at 14/16 and I was a size 20. Even when I saw a plus-sized outfit that was my size, it was ridiculously expensive. I decided to start learning how to sew. That’s what I threw all my energy into.
How did that go?
It’s still going very well. I don’t only make clothes for plus-sized women, but rest assured, you’ll always find outfits for plus-sized women in my shop.
What other things made accepting your body so difficult?
Mostly external remarks at first. But then it became the marriage problem. When I started my business at 22, I had never had a boyfriend. It wasn’t a big deal to me because I felt I was still young. By 28, which was a really good year for my business, most of my classmates and friends were married and had children. I didn’t take the problem seriously then too, I believed there was still time. Then my step-mother told me that I was too focused on my business and not my personal life and that I had to settle down. She used the bridal outfits I was making for clients to insult me. E pain me. Said I’m selling my glory and things like that. My friends, siblings, relatives started trying to match-make me. That didn’t work out because once the men saw I was big, they got repulsed or at least seemed to be repulsed. Gosh, when I think of all the blind dates I went on, I want to bite myself.
Haha. That bad?
The ghetto. It was also partly my fault because I thought that being this fat, I didn’t deserve anything good. So I didn’t do any proper screening. Just before I turned 30, I finally met a man that seemed like he was interested. Turns out he was just one of those men that had a fat-fetish. We had a lot of sex, but he wouldn’t go out with me, wouldn’t take pictures with me, wouldn’t introduce me to his friends. It was the sex for him. I was going to stick to it, but omo, it was too toxic. Then I met another guy. The problem with this one was that he looked at me as some kind of personal project. His goal seemed to be to make me lose weight. He would get mad if I ate late or if I didn’t work out. At first I complied because I assumed he was looking out for me, but after falling sick from starving myself in order to lose weight, I came correct and decided to end things.
Have you met any good guys yet?
Honestly, no and I’m tired of being single. First of all, it’s incredibly lonely. Then, I have 4 sisters. They are younger than me, skinny, more beautiful and by some twist in fate, all married with children, except for the youngest who is already engaged. I used to think the pressure to get married wouldn’t get to me, but it’s gotten to me and it’s choking me like mad. It’s almost as if everywhere you go, marriage is the topic.
And being a feminist, some people just assume you’re immune to affection or love or marriage or to the pressure that comes with any of these things. Or that you’re immune to being fatphobic and hating yourself. Na lie. You’re 30 and not married? Error oh.
How long have you been single?
It’s been six years since I was actually in a relationship.
How often have you been on dates in this time?
Very few unremarkable times. I like to tell people that I’m very fat just as a heads up. If they don’t bail when I tell them this, they bail when they eventually see me, except they have the fat fetish.
Another problem is that I’m not ‘thick’ in the conventional sense — I’m not the acceptable standard of fat. I don’t have really huge jugs, huge hips and a huge ass. And that even makes me hate my body even more. I try my best not to, but it’s hard.
Let’s talk about losing weight. You mentioned at the start of the interview that you always tell people you’re fitfam.
Yes. It’s absolutely necessary. There are too many stereotypes about being a fat woman. People don’t know that I work out. They just assume that because I’m big, I’m lazy and eat too much. I started losing weight because I assumed that people (men, especially) would like me better if I was smaller.
My step-mother keeps saying my weight is the reason I’m single. That and the fact that I’m too picky. She has actually used the ‘beggar doesn’t have choice’ line on me. Biggest insult I’ve ever received. So I shouldn’t choose wisely, just because I’m fat? Yes I’m tired of being single, but I’m not going to do wuruwuru to the answer.
I feel you. What kind of fitfam things are you doing?
I’ve tried intermittent fasting, I’ve done Keto, I’ve done low carb. For now, I’m just eating healthy and small portions at a time. I’m also gyming regularly. I like to swim, so I do that.
Was this what helped you lose the weight you lost early this year?
Intermittent fasting mostly.
I’m curious, outside of being single, how are you?
Mostly bored. I guess my weight and being single is such a big part of my existence, it’s hard to define myself outside of those two things. Well there’s my business too sha. That takes up a huge chunk of my time and I’m proud of what I do.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself since you started fitfam?
That it’s okay to be tired, that it’s okay to want more, that it’s okay to accept your flaws, that it’s okay to acknowledge your problems even though you don’t know anything about solving them.